Hangboard Training for Non-Climbers

What is a hangboard?  It’s is a cool tool invented by rock climbers to improve their finger strength, or contact strength as they call it.  As you can see from the pic, it has handholds and edges of different sizes that you hang from to stress and strengthen your fingers and hands.  In this post I want to talk about hangboard training for non-climbers and what it can and can’t do for you.  There are enough articles out there already covering hangboard training for the serious rock climber.

Okay, let’s start out with what a hangboard won’t do for you:

It won’t make you a good rock climber.  Rock climbing is mostly skill, learning how to position your body and use your feet and legs efficiently.  To learn that skill, nothing beats actual practice at climbing.

It won’t build huge forearms.  Hangboard training mainly strengthens the tendons in your fingers.  It doesn’t do much for forearm development.  If you want big/ripped forearms, there are much better exercises for that purpose, covered in a previous blog post.

It won’t help you hold onto a barbell or pull up bar.  You’ll build a lot of strength around the last joint in your fingers, but that doesn’t translate well to barbell training because you don’t hold a barbell by your fingertips.

Considering all that it won’t do, why should you bother using a hangboard?

If you want to be strong from your fingers to your toes.  Finger strength isn’t as flashy as big biceps, but it’s at least as useful in day to day life, since we grab things with our fingers every day.

It’s a cool fun feat to be able to hang from a tiny ledge or tiny holds.  Demonstrate mastery over your own bodyweight!

Prepare yourself to learn rock climbing.  Finger strength is no substitute for climbing skill, but it will allow you to cling to smaller holds and make larger holds feel easier as you learn to work your way up the rock or wall.

How to train on the hangboard

Start by warming up your fingers, hands, and forearms, either by hanging from a pull up bar or the largest holds on the hangboard for 2-3 sets of 20-30 seconds.  Then pick a hold that you can only hang onto for 5-10 seconds, and do 3-5 sets of hangs for maximum time, with 60 seconds of rest in between.  Perform the workout 2-3 times per week.  Once you can hang from a particular hold for more than 10 seconds, move to a more challenging one.

It’s normal to have some finger soreness from this routine, but if the soreness is severe, back off both the intensity and frequency until you adapt and the soreness subsides.  If you get too aggressive with the training, you risk straining a tendon which can take a long time to heal.  Listen to your body and that shouldn’t be an issue.  Good luck!

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